Californian Food Products Irrigated With Oil Production Wastewater Might Arrive in Europe

A report by Food & Water Europe shows the worrying link between toxic oil production and what we eat and drink.

Brussels, 8 August 2016 — A report by Food & Water Europe shows the worrying link between toxic oil production and what we eat and drink. Extreme oil extraction techniques produce millions of liters of toxic wastewater. In California, the oil industry has found a way to get rid of this wastewater by selling it to local public water agencies, which, in turn, sell it to farmers to irrigate crops. The EU is one of the main importers of Californian food products.

In Kern County, in California’s agricultural Central Valley, up to half the water used by farmers in one local water district is “produced”—that is minimally treated and diluted oil waste water— from nearby Chevron operations. Wastewater tested in California contained toxics like carcinogen benzene. Although the wastewater is treated, drilling chemicals can persist. No regulations specifically address the treatment of drilling wastewater in the U.S. state.

“The use of oil wastewater for agriculture is not properly regulated in California, said Frida Kieninger, campaign officer at Food & Water Europe. “We don’t have any data on the extent to which crops absorb the chemicals in the wastewater, or what the human health consequences might be. Producers are not even required to label food exposed to such irrigation. With so little information, Californian regulators are playing Russian Roulette with the safety of consumers”

California is among the top agricultural exporters in the U.S. About 80 percent of almonds consumed globally come from the Golden State and one-third of California’s almond exports are destined for the EU. Wine, pistachios, walnuts and raisins are also exported to EU member states, especially to Germany, Spain and the UK.

“Food imports from California make the issue not only of concern to Americans, but also to consumers globally ”, added Frida Kieninger. “The fact that food irrigated with toxic oil chemicals might end up on our plates and in our stomachs is completely unacceptable. European authorities must take action, especially in the context of the TTIP negotiations.”

Get the Report: Fracking and the Food System

Contact: Frida Kieninger, Campaigns officer, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 2893 1045 (land), +32 (0) 487 249 905 (mobile), fkieninger(at)